Suggestions For Improving the New Player Experience

    • Suggestions For Improving the New Player Experience

      So I think it's safe to say most people agree that the game's onboarding experience could use some work. Hex is, overall, a great game, but it doesn't do a good job of showing itself off to new players. I wanted to present a few suggestions that I feel would help mitigate some of the 'new player' woes that we all know exist.

      I'm going to break this post into a few sections. Each section will contain a few suggestions for how to improve new player perceptions of that part of the game.

      Campaign

      1) Challenge encounters need to be marked in a different colour and identified in the legend as such. We still get complaints of people who hit piranhas and got stomped, or who complain about how they can't get past hag.

      2) Revise the starter decks. Right now the starter decks are weak, bland, and not much changes when you make a completely different character. The colour and artwork changes, but a lot of the cards are basically the same. Each deck should have a defined theme and be full of cards that show off the diversity of Hex. Yes, this means Hex has to give us a different set of free commons and uncommons. But it's a small price to pay. Nico posted a suggestion with some ideas here: Reworking Racial Starter decks to kick major butt - those are great ideas. But there are plenty of other themes that could work too. The important part is giving people a good sense of what each race is about through the starter decks.

      3) During the starter dungeon, have the character who is escorting you enter play for free at the start of your first turn. Give him a brief dialog box where he gives you advice about the encounter and then enters play. Yes, this will make the starter dungeon easy. And yes, that's ENTIRELY the point. There's no reason for the intro dungeon to be challenging, when it can be fun in stead.

      4) For your FIRST character to reach a given racial card award, give a full playset.(this is kind of tied to a later suggestion)

      5) The first few encounters should give cards that are relevant for improving the deck. When you get them, the game should take you to the deck builder and offer you suggestions on what to remove and why.(This option can be turned off in the menu)

      Feature Requests

      1) Account-wide quest system INCLUDING a set of one-time goals. These would offer small rewards just for playing, but tailored in such a way that you gradually 'unlock' the rewards for the more difficult parts as you play.
      ex.
      On initial login, you get presented with the 'Intro to PVE' suite - Create a character, Clear the intro dungeon, Clear the Tranquil Dream, Level to 5. Each awards some tailored reward - gold/pve packs/account leveling experience/etc.
      After that, you're presented with the 'PvE Chapter 1' set - quests for each of the remaining dungeon, and one for hitting level 10, and one for creating a second character.
      Next you're presented with a PvE and a PvP set of quests, the PvE continues into AZ2, while the PvP quests offer you extra rewards for participating in your first ladder match, your first ladder win, etc.
      And so on... culminating in a PvE quest series to perfect the arena, complete the challenge encounters, etc. and a PvP one to enter into one of the scheduled event tournaments.

      These quests have no time limit, and just offer encouragement in a gradual way on where your next steps in each game mode should be.

      2) Achievement system offering lifetime goals both for pve and pvp with cosmetic account-bound rewards.

      3) An optional expanded tutorial that goes into advanced concepts of deckbuilding, with limited tutorials(possibly showcasing the BREAD acronym), shard bases, keyword definitions, etc. - add a 'deck check' system where the game checks your deck against certain basic deckbuilding principles and offers explanations of potential problems with the deck.

      4) Weekly challenges for both PvE and PvP. These could range from format challenges(participate in x ladder), deck restrictions(win an evo match using a deck that contains at least 5 cards with x keyword or complete x dungeon without mercenaries) or even generic ones(win x games or 'win x games with a deck containing at least 30% cards from x shard)

      For the weekly challenges, present players with 3 PvE and 3 PVP per week, allow them to select up to 3 total they would like to complete. So hybrid players have more choice, but both pve and pvp players can complete the same number of challenges per week. These challenges offer small rewards.





      Anyone else have any ideas for things that would help make the game a bit more accessible and welcoming to new players?
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    • (Also, aside from the account wide quest system... I tried to keep most of the requests within the context of what the game already offers... so as to make them not TOO difficult to implement)
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    • We are yelling into a wall.
      Some things so easy to implement that have not.
      It would be disingenuous to even say I want HXE comment on this now, after saying it for over a year with no changes or dialogue then.
      Clearly focus is elsewhere, and our opinions on the matter have little weight on switch flipping.

      (All good ideas btw)
    • NicoSharp wrote:

      We are yelling into a wall.
      Some things so easy to implement that have not.
      It would be disingenuous to even say I want HXE comment on this now, after saying it for over a year with no changes or dialogue then.
      Clearly focus is elsewhere, and our opinions on the matter have little weight on switch flipping.

      (All good ideas btw)
      Sometimes its the tenth, twentieth, or thirtieth time you poke someone that they give you their attention... so I gotta hope... but I know. It's not likely.
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    • Blackwood wrote:

      There's been a lot of feedback for over four years at this point and I think it would probably be generous to assert that even 5% of it ended up actually leading to changes.
      Trust me, I know and I agree. But I'm not content giving up on providing feedback and suggestions. If I still enjoy a game, I will offer my inexpert opinion on how it could be improved. If I stop being willing to do that, that's a big sign to me that I should stop playing the game ;)
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    • Eraia wrote:

      Trust me, I know and I agree. But I'm not content giving up on providing feedback and suggestions. If I still enjoy a game, I will offer my inexpert opinion on how it could be improved. If I stop being willing to do that, that's a big sign to me that I should stop playing the game ;)
      I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't say I was there with you, in my own way--even though I rarely play Hex at this point, I keep coming back to the forums every day to check in and see if there's been news or progress and I keep tilting at that big ole' 'what Hex could be' windmill. I want to be enthusiastic about the future of Hex, but I also must temper that with being realistic--and that has left me very much in the 'wait and see' frame of mind.
    • Blackwood wrote:

      I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't say I was there with you, in my own way--even though I rarely play Hex at this point, I keep coming back to the forums every day to check in and see if there's been news or progress and I keep tilting at that big ole' 'what Hex could be' windmill. I want to be enthusiastic about the future of Hex, but I also must temper that with being realistic--and that has left me very much in the 'wait and see' frame of mind.
      That's completely fair. Each person has their own method of coping ;)
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    • Thanks for the post, Eraia!

      As someone that runs my own software business, I can say that Hex created the "Feedback and suggestions" category specifically because they know how important it is. Even if they don't respond, they'd be fools not to read and seriously consider every single comment here (and I don't think they're fools).

      On to my 2-cents...

      There's a lot in your initial post - most of which I agree with and some I disagree with, so I figure I'll share my thoughts point by point.

      Campaign

      Challenge encounters. Completely agree. This is a pet point of mine, with another merc-related suggestion here: forums.hextcg.com/index.php?thread/3072-making-pve-more-new-user-friendly-ie-steering-away-from-certain-failure

      Revise starter decks. Mostly disagree here. It's important for starter decks to be weak and very basic (even approaching bland). Something earned is more cherished than something given, so starting weak makes early rewards far more enjoyable. Additionally, having a weak starting deck makes the need to deck-edit more obvious. Deckbuilding is hard to teach, so folks need to see it early. That all being said, I like your and Nico's ideas for making the decks distinct across the races both to fit flavor and racial mechanics.

      Escort in starter dungeon. Love this idea!!! Especially because they can come in to help on turn 4 if the n00b won the last encounter ("hey, [player name] - it took me some time to catch up, but now I've got your back") and come in on turn 1 if they lost the last encounter ("I'm here with you now - let's take 'em down together").

      Racial playset. Disagree. This would hurt the value of better racial cards, which fund a FTPer's first foray into the Auction House... and hopefully subsequent conversion to PvP and PTP. Farmers would abuse it with dummy accounts and n00bs would later regret not picking Vennen as their first race... though maybe not you Eraia - I know how much you hate mill...

      Deckbuilding suggestions. Completely agree. The suggestions can even be voiced from the escort who could reasonably have advance knowledge about the next encounter. Can also be used to reinforce basics like (i) fast = high attack w/ low cost (Arena Brawler), (ii) tricks = quick actions (auras)... and how to 2-for-1, and (iii) control = late game inevitability (Runeweb Infiltrator).


      Feature Requests

      Account-wide quests and achievement system. Agree. It's a lot of work from Hex, but would be a nice dynamic addition to the lvl-up-to-100 way they do it now.

      Expanded / advanced tutorial. On the fence. Being a big MTG'er, I didn't need it, but truly new folks would certainly benefit. This is likely a ton of work for Hex. Streamers can help here, so as Hex supports streamers and the community at large, they might be able to accomplish more bang for the buck that way.

      Weekly challenges. Strongly disagree. This is addictive design, which keep players playing for the wrong reasons. It would inevitably help in the short term, but hurt in the long term. The near-absence of timed challenges (I'm still hoping they drop the daily exp boost) is one of the main reasons I'm with Hex over so many other digital card games, which focus on such short-term incentives.
    • Thanks for taking the time to reply :)

      Shylba wrote:

      This is addictive design, which keep players playing for the wrong reasons. It would inevitably help in the short term, but hurt in the long term. The near-absence of timed challenges (I'm still hoping they drop the daily exp boost) is one of the main reasons I'm with Hex over so many other digital card games, which focus on such short-term incentives.
      I think, in the current day and age, having SOME degree of repeatable timed incentive is important. I agree that it should be kept fairly small, and should not become a primary focus... but rewarding people for logging in and playing your game is a positive. Things like Fortnite's progressive rewards, LoL's first one of the day or WoW's 'rested bonus' are all relatively low-impact examples. But I generally like the concept of having small bonuses.

      If it reaches the level of something like Heroes of the Storm where the majority of your rewards come from that, then it's a problem. But having a small bonus is something I'm generally pretty happy about.

      But I see where you're coming from.

      Shylba wrote:

      Revise starter decks. Mostly disagree here. It's important for starter decks to be weak and very basic (even approaching bland). Something earned is more cherished than something given, so starting weak makes early rewards far more enjoyable. Additionally, having a weak starting deck makes the need to deck-edit more obvious. Deckbuilding is hard to teach, so folks need to see it early. That all being said, I like your and Nico's ideas for making the decks distinct across the races both to fit flavor and racial mechanics.
      I 100% disagree. You should NEVER have your player's first experience with a game be 'something bland'. That's a surefire way to get them to say 'well, nothing to see here. Let's just play something else'.

      There's a reason so many games go with intros that either contain flash forwards, start you as more powerful characters, or start you with all of your stuff and have it stripped from you. It's important to make sure that the player has a good first 10-15 minutes. Show off what players CAN do early. Now, in a game like Hex, that's a bit harder... but having decks that are okay but are built off of less boring cards is a great way to start that.


      Shylba wrote:

      Racial playset. Disagree. This would hurt the value of better racial cards, which fund a FTPer's first foray into the Auction House... and hopefully subsequent conversion to PvP and PTP. Farmers would abuse it with dummy accounts and n00bs would later regret not picking Vennen as their first race... though maybe not you Eraia - I know how much you hate mill...
      There're a few things about this... the main reason why it's a positive is what you said, that it gives FTP options for selling. But if the game wasn't so sparse on content, that wouldn't be an issue. I would MUCH prefer to build the game I want to see rather than neutering it for the sake of protecting its flaws from criticism. If we had repeatable dungeons that were interesting, and a more robust reward system, and crafting, and all of these other interesting components... then we wouldn't need these racial cards to be good to farm like that.

      The fact that one of the most valuable things a player can do is the least entertaining thing in the game is a bad thing. It is not something we should be encouraging, it is perfectly fine for that to made less valuable. It's generally better design to incentivize the fun stuff. So let's remove one of the incentives to do one of the boring things, which can then be used as a reason to create a new opportunity to incentivize something fun. At least, that's how I look at it.

      And, if we reduce the value of them, then there won't be any reason for farmers to abuse it, so the abuse case is no longer an issue.
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    • I agree that boring starter decks lead to a NPE that isn't very compelling, but I also agree that juicing them up too much can lead to confusion due to being hit with too many mechanics at once, and also make the campaign rewards feel very unsatisfying since they don't improve your already highly-specialized deck at all. Maybe we can build on the racial rewards idea.

      What if your starter deck focused on one cool mechanic of your race (my Vennen add spider eggs!) and then fairly early in the campaign, we give people a playset of common or uncommon PVP cards that introduce another cool mechanic (I can have cards that gets stronger whenever spiders come out!) and then do it again a little later (I can have cards that make Dreadlings, and they're spiders too!), etc. That way we aren't instantly overwhelming people, we're not needing to create new reward cards, we aren't flooding the market with a bunch of cards that you get for creating an account or giving out tons of valuable cards, but we're easily exposing people to all the fun mechanics that exist in the game, the ways that they interact with each other, and the uniqueness of the races, all while giving them a sense of progress that they're deck is getting better as they proceed.
    • Mystery wrote:

      I agree that boring starter decks lead to a NPE that isn't very compelling, but I also agree that juicing them up too much can lead to confusion due to being hit with too many mechanics at once, and also make the campaign rewards feel very unsatisfying since they don't improve your already highly-specialized deck at all. Maybe we can build on the racial rewards idea.

      What if your starter deck focused on one cool mechanic of your race (my Vennen add spider eggs!) and then fairly early in the campaign, we give people a playset of common or uncommon PVP cards that introduce another cool mechanic (I can have cards that gets stronger whenever spiders come out!) and then do it again a little later (I can have cards that make Dreadlings, and they're spiders too!), etc. That way we aren't instantly overwhelming people, we're not needing to create new reward cards, we aren't flooding the market with a bunch of cards that you get for creating an account or giving out tons of valuable cards, but we're easily exposing people to all the fun mechanics that exist in the game, the ways that they interact with each other, and the uniqueness of the races, all while giving them a sense of progress that they're deck is getting better as they proceed.
      As far as the first half of that... I honestly don't think that's any more of a problem with better starter decks than it is now. AZ1 pack rewards are mostly awful regardless, and the dungeons only have a handful of really interesting cards and most of those are very generalist in terms of strategy(dream eagle, ardent/underworld recruiter, etc.).

      As for the second half, that seems interesting. Another element to consider is that a 'better, more interesting deck' doesn't necessarily mean that the deck has to be amazing. Just means we give them something interesting to work with in stead of a whole bunch of buffalos... and a deck that is good enough that it is worth modifying as you get cards and level, as opposed to having to scrap the entire thing and rebuild it from the ground up like you have to now.

      Also, I feel it is VERY IMPORTANT that if you make a new character of a different race, your experience is significantly different. I honestly feel as though each race/class combo should have its own starter deck that is distinct, but that's a bigger ask than I'm willing to commit to here. In most RPGs, every character you create feels distinct. If I start an Elf Warrior, my experience should be significantly different from a Vennen Mage. But right now, the cards really aren't THAT different. There are just too many bland generic cards that the art and colours are different, but the experience is largely the same.
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    • Eraia wrote:

      There are just too many bland generic cards that the art and colours are different, but the experience is largely the same.
      Please don't take this as an attack on you or on the game. This is meant as an honest query.
      If the entire game is "I play cards to give me the resources to play more cards to make their life (or deck) total go to 0 before mine does." How much variance can there be?
      The short answer is a huge amount, but it varies based on color/theme/tempo.
      Are you suggesting that a 3-cost basic troop with 2/4, 3/3, and 3/2 should feel different to play, or that the experience of clicking (or dragging) a card into play should be different based upon deck/bonuses/campaign?

      Clarify this for me, man! My personal thought is that the charge power and bonuses from race/class do a -massive- amount to differentiate the experience. I opened a few new characters lately. Despite all of them going directly into a "get the shiny gem" scenario, the "feel" is varied, to me. It's just like opening up an RPG module and deciding which race/class to play as, before going on the "scout the enemy camp" scenario in any tabletop RPG module I've ever seen.

      What do you specifically think would make the opening hour or two of the campaign distinct/memorable/more fun?
      (That last question is aimed at the player base in general as well as Eraia in specific, as he was quite eloquent in suggesting a "Guest GM Character" joining here and there. Note that this also does happen with Great Machine Graveyard.)

      Finally, what HEX does amazingly well (but sometimes hides) is the in-game bonuses/passives/abilities. I've replayed the Tranquil Dream multiple times, not because of rewards or farming, but because it's fun to have opponents with different unique passives and a variety of decks, with options that shape the "final boss" and even the order of selecting nodes mattering in the level of challenge obtained.
    • Zyblen wrote:

      Eraia wrote:

      There are just too many bland generic cards that the art and colours are different, but the experience is largely the same.
      Please don't take this as an attack on you or on the game. This is meant as an honest query.If the entire game is "I play cards to give me the resources to play more cards to make their life (or deck) total go to 0 before mine does." How much variance can there be?
      The short answer is a huge amount, but it varies based on color/theme/tempo.
      Are you suggesting that a 3-cost basic troop with 2/4, 3/3, and 3/2 should feel different to play, or that the experience of clicking (or dragging) a card into play should be different based upon deck/bonuses/campaign?

      Clarify this for me, man! My personal thought is that the charge power and bonuses from race/class do a -massive- amount to differentiate the experience. I opened a few new characters lately. Despite all of them going directly into a "get the shiny gem" scenario, the "feel" is varied, to me. It's just like opening up an RPG module and deciding which race/class to play as, before going on the "scout the enemy camp" scenario in any tabletop RPG module I've ever seen.

      What do you specifically think would make the opening hour or two of the campaign distinct/memorable/more fun?
      (That last question is aimed at the player base in general as well as Eraia in specific, as he was quite eloquent in suggesting a "Guest GM Character" joining here and there. Note that this also does happen with Great Machine Graveyard.)

      Finally, what HEX does amazingly well (but sometimes hides) is the in-game bonuses/passives/abilities. I've replayed the Tranquil Dream multiple times, not because of rewards or farming, but because it's fun to have opponents with different unique passives and a variety of decks, with options that shape the "final boss" and even the order of selecting nodes mattering in the level of challenge obtained.
      What I'm suggesting is that the decks contain more than just basic 2/3 troops at 3 cost. ;)

      I want to see the starter decks contain unique themes with differing styles an win conditions. Right now, all of the starter decks basically have the same strat... stall until you have all of your troops out and eventually win just because the enemy decks are so bad that they can't deal with even 2/3 basic vanilla troops.

      What I would like to see is each race have a starter deck that features interesting mechanics and doesn't have so many cards that are just reskinned versions of the cards in other starter decks. I want the starter decks to show off what Hex has to offer. Right now, they really don't. If you take a look at the suggestion thread from Nico that I lined, it provides examples of the types of starter decks I'd like to see. Not necessarily SPECIFICALLY those ones, but along those lines. Decks that give people an example to show what relatively decent deckbuilding looks like, that have a balanced curve, interesting mechanics to play with, and are drastically different from race to race.

      As far as the guest character suggestion goes, that goes SPECIFICALLY for the starter dungeon.... although I wouldn't mind seeing more dungeons where you get helpers. I would love to see the characters who are accompanying you anyways and are chatting with you during the opening dungeon actually appear during the opening dungeon fights. It'd be an awesome way to show off the digital space(starting with a card that isn't even in your deck), it'd help reduce the possibility of the opening dungeon scaring people off, and it'd let people get used to what that card can do before before they get it, which'd help them evaluate it.

      Your last point is kind of my big problem with Hex. They do all this cool stuff but they don't show it off to new players. They keep everything so hidden.
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    • Thanks for your usual thoughtful responses, Eraia. You've convinced me on your racial playset idea - especially after recent changes.

      I still err on Zyblen's side of thinking that Hill Giants (a Magic term meaning plain ~2/2s for 3) can feel varied paired with charge powers, combat tricks (the auras), supporting tempo (Runeweb Infiltrator vs Savage Raider), and eventually deckbuilding.

      *But*...

      I need to remember that a first experience with Hex isn't in a vacuum either.

      Years ago, I recall being blown away by Inspire (via Shield Trainer) and Rage (via Incite Fury). I came to Hex with loads of experience with games like Magic: The Gathering and having a stat improvement stick with the card was *very* different and pulled me in immediately. Shield Trainer and Incite Fury aren't generally powerful cards, but they certainly felt like that given my opponents at the time.

      One-shots (including Shift), Prophesies, Blessings, and Spiderling Eggs didn't exist back then, but when I picked Hex up again years later, each of those mechanics offered even more more empowering moments that made me realize Hex stood above other, similar games.

      All of those currently exist in starter decks, but the more they're highlighted, the better... which I believe is a big part of what you're pushing for.

      Unfortunately, that leaves Dwarves, Elves, and Shin'hare behind.

      Of course that could be solved creatively with your Escort suggestions... Speaking of which, I just thought of a (potentially crazy) Dwarf escort option over Glen... what if they started with a Worker Bot and Construction Plans: Ingenuity Engine instead?... That'd certainly feel very different from the other races! Of course you'd still have to give them Glendower (instead of the Plans) after the Crayburn, but a go-out-and-build-something-crazy attitude seems especially on flavor for the Dwarves.
    • Shylba wrote:

      All of those currently exist in starter decks, but the more they're highlighted, the better... which I believe is a big part of what you're pushing for.
      Exactly. That's a very good way to put it. I really want to make each deck feel synergistic and fitting, and REALLY highlight each race's unique elements.


      Shylba wrote:

      Unfortunately, that leaves Dwarves, Elves, and Shin'hare behind.
      As you mention, Elves, Dwarves, and Shin'hare can be tough on that. I feel like Elves ramp focus makes sense... I wish Nerrissa fit in with it better. But I think that there's an interesting space involved in just massive dudes. None of the other starters have 'massive dudes' or ramp really, so that IS distinct. I think they could benefit from switching out some of the bigger troops with Elves. But... big dudes are fun. And the thing is... if each race really plays up its own uniqueness, then having one be relatively straightforward stat balls(but big and ramping) becomes an interesting change. Showing off that plain troops CAN be powerful too becomes unique.

      Shin'Hare have the 'swarm' feel, a bit, but they don't have anything to really make the swarming troops feel disposable. I feel like a few sacrifice oriented cards and maybe some scrounge(like the uncommon scrounge opponents sacrifice a troop in stead of vulture, maybe) would go a long way to give them a distinct feel.

      Dwarves could either be things like robot synergy with dreadlings... or just plans - I do love me some plans. I love your idea of the Ingenuity Engine, although it might be awkward to point everyone to an awesome fun card that is so limited in numbers. But they could totally reprint it. Or maybe make a pve card that's basically a reprint. But ya, I feel like there are spaces for Dwarves that could be very interesting.
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